By Gaëtan L. Charlebois (Editor-in-chief)
Another week of English-language theatre in Montreal has come and gone and things are beginning to slow down so that we can all rest up before the smash-up that is theatre here in January.
It has been an interesting week at CharPo. The Post continues to firm up what we will be offering each week but it is not like the site sits empty as we do this. We've had some great offerings because, apparently, people want to share their experiences and, most importantly, their experience with a new generation of theatre artists. (This was the point of our Sunday Feature on PR and will the point of many articles in the future.)
I am already happy that Amy, Estelle, David, Richard and Patrick have gotten into my little boat and understand the mandate: to promote English-language theatre in Montreal by discussing it, dissecting it and, also, by criticizing it. I was also very happy Keir Cutler got what we were trying to do here and accepted my request for a first-person piece about working solo. He, more than many others, has proven that terrific theatre can blossom with the most constraining restrictions. I was especially delighted when Barbara Ford decided to throw her lot in with us. Starting this coming Saturday we will be presenting her new column: profiles of people and companies who work here in an artistic climate that is both difficult but also challenging in a way that makes theatre grow and prosper.
What do I mean by that? Imagination in theatre is everything. I once interviewed a prominent francophone designer whose work was, simply, brilliant. She told me her only restriction was budget and that she could do so much more with a decent wad. Here's the thing: when she became well known and began to design for the BIG theatres, her work was still beautiful but it didn't have the same rough magic. In the small houses she and her lighting designer had given us places out of air; allowed our own imaginations to fill in the gaps - made the audience part of the theatrical process. In fact, the audiences had been full accomplices in a strange and mystical ritual which often happens in the best of theatre. Let me give what happened to this person a name: the Cirque du Soleil Syndrome. As the Cirque's budgets and shows get bigger and bigger they leave me colder and colder. (And don't get me started on the Cirque's unconscionable associations with the Chinese bandit state and the Middle-Eastern oil kleptocracies - facts which taint my view of everything the Cirque does.)
I'm not saying that I don't want our small English-language companies to get the money they so richly deserve (it would be nice if artists were actually paid a decent wage more often) but I am saying that great theatre is two things: first, sharing a common heartbeat, for a moment; second, making a lot of noise about the experience. Neither of those things requires a huge budget...